Vaxart (NASDAQ:VXRT) on Thursday reported new details from a pre-clinical animal study of the company's COVID-19 vaccine candidate. According to the company, there was "significant reduction" of lung viral load in hamsters that received the vaccine, compared to non-vaccinated animals. And there was evidence that it generated a strong immune system response, as the vaccinated animals displayed antibody titers above 10,000.

"These additional data provide further evidence supporting the efficacy potential of our oral COVID-19 vaccine candidate," said CEO Andrei Floroiu. "In addition, we believe that our room-temperature-stable oral tablet vaccine would be a more convenient, more practical solution to the COVID-19 pandemic as compared to cold-chain dependent injectable vaccines."

Assorted pills on a table along with a face mask.

Image source: Getty Images

Vaxart, which began 2020 as a tiny micro-cap company, has seen its share price soar by 1,482% year to date -- and during the summer, it was significantly higher. Investors are particularly excited about the biotech because it's one of the few companies attempting to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that's delivered via a pill rather than a shot. 

Aside from their obvious upsides in terms of ease of use, tablets have a lot of distribution advantages. Vaxart's vaccine is stable at room temperature, while some of the other candidates that are further along in the testing process must be transported and stored at extremely cold temperatures.

For instance, the mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) has to be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Many hospitals around the world do not have medical-grade freezers that can keep such a vaccine cool enough, and across much of the globe, the cold-chain infrastructure that would be required to distribute it either doesn't exist or is too limited to meet the need.

However, Vaxart has been slower than many of its rivals to get its coronavirus vaccine into human trials. The stock is down from a high of $17 a share in July to around $5.25 as of 12:30 p.m. EST on Thursday. For the day, Vaxart shares were trading about 14% higher on the hamster news.

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